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James Sprunt Historical Monograph 

[ORTH ( 

Provincial Council and Committees of Safety 
in North Carolina 





James Sprunt Historical Monograph 


By John Gil oh r is t Alc< 
L,j., !: CONVENTION OF r- 

By Kemp P. K;, 


By Edwin Mood Wii 


By Kemp I*. 




No. 5, MIK 

D; vi) NOT 

!!v Kemp P, 

IN 1S27 AND 1S2" 

l>v Ivor. 
Xo, 7. Wi 

James Sprunt Historical Monograph 



NO. 8 

The Provincial Council and Committees of Safety 
in North Carolina 








The following 1 study was undertaken by the author at the 
suggestion of the department of History as a thesis for the 
degree of Master of Arts. The subject, important as were 
the organizations whose activities are herein so fully described, 
has not hitherto received a full and proper treatment, and it 
is hoped that this monograph will assist in showing how 
great a responsibility rested upon the committees of safety 
and also how well that responsibility was assumed 

The main source relied on in the preparation of the study 
was the Colonial Records of North Carolina. Reference to 
them is so frequent that it has seemed only necessary to refer 
to them by the numeral indicating the volume. The work of 
Dr. E. W. Sikes, entitled North Carolina Colony to Com- 
mon-wealth, has also been largely used. 

The author wishes to express her grateful appreciation of 
assistance rendered her in the preparation of this paper. The 
editor also wishes to express his grateful acknowledgements 
to his colleague, Dr. Louis'- R. Wilson, for assistance in the 
reading of the proof. 

The foul streams of sedition which through the channels of com- 
mittees have overflowed this once happy land threaten it with every 
species of misery, ruin and destruction. Governor Martin. 



Introductory. The significance of the system as a type of 


Description of the system in organization and administrative 
range from the time of its full formation to its close, 
including two stages: 

1. Provincial Council, District Committee, Local 

2. Council of Safety and Local Committees. 


The system as a part of a larger one embracing the founda- 
tion plan of Congress centre with the final reversion to 
the Congress as a Constitutional Convention. 

1. Discussion larger system as a whole. 

2. Outline of steps or landmarks in the development 
of the larger system. 


Functions of the Government. 

1. Provincial Council in its various features of 

2. Council of Safety in its various features of activity. 

vi. Contents 

3. Work of County Committees. 

a. In connection with functions of District Com- 

b. In connection with town Committees. 

c. Inter-relations County Committees. 

d. Influence traced through the proceeding's of 
the Committees of separate counties. 


Summary and Conclusion. 

1. Growth, rise and decline of system. 

2. Value of the government: 

a. To the Colony. 

b. To the 'State. 


x:208 From September 9, 1775, until November 12, 

1776, a system of government existed in North 
Carolina which is worthy of investigation for its 
unique combination of democratic spirit and oligarchical 
methods a tyrannical administration by patriots seeking in- 
dividual and national liberty. 

This plan of government was by no means new to the Col- 
ony. The movement which produced it, like other move- 
ments of history, was of gradual growth. The first interest 
for us is a view of the system as a whole, through its related 
divisions and as regards its range of jurisdiction and its 
special functions. Then some conception of the probable 
origin of the various parts of the governmental machinery is 
necessary for any firm footing in confidence and appreciation. 
This established, we proceed to watch the growth and de- 
velopment of the system and recognize in so doing the field of 
its operation, the force and mission of its organization, the 
necessity for its influence and the time for its destruction. It 
vanished so sopn as the purpose of its being was accom- 
plished and the way had been prepared for a new govern- 
ment with regular, well defined and evenly distributed func- 

The government in North Carolina during the period indi- 
cated September 9, 1775, to November 12, 1776 was that 
of the Provincial Council and the Committees of Safety. 
The Provincial Council was the central governing body of 
the province, but it existed only during the recess 
x:2iu of the Congress, and all of its proceedings were 
subject to the inspection and approval of the 

2 Juan'* Sfinnit lli*torir<il Mo/io</r<i/>li 

Congress. It thus filled the place of the Congress when that 
body was not in session. Having power to call the higher 
body into operation at any time, it by so doing 
x: 212 from time to time put an end to its own activity, 
which was not resumed until the end of that ses- 
sion of the Congress. 

Regularly the Council met quarterly but it 

x: 210 might convene as often as deemed expedient, and 

in the same way adjourn at discretion. It was 

made up of thirteen members, two from each of 

x:208 the six districts into which the province was 

divided, and one appointed by the Congress for 

the State at large. 

x:208 As a force supplementary to the Provincial 

Council, there was provision for six district 
committees, viz., Wilmington, New Bern, Edenton, Halifax, 
Hillsboro and Salisbury. Of these only 'the first two men- 
tioned seem to have been at all active. District 
x: 245 Committees were supposed to sit quarterly at the 
principal towns within their respective districts 
and as often at other times "as they might judge expedient. 
Each of these committees was made up of a president and 
twelve other members, elected in Congress by members of the 
respective districts. These six committees were designed to 
aid in the execution of acts of Council (and Congress), to 
take the initiative in allotted jurisdiction and to exercise 
supervising influence over the County and Town Committees. 
The "plan for the internal peace, order and safety of the 
province" included a committee for each County of the Prov- 
ince and for every town "having a right of rep- 
x: 212 resentation in Congress". In reality by no means 
all the counties seem to have had committees ; in 
like manner the records show separate town committees in few 
cases. These seem usually operative only when identified 
with the Committee for the County. The activity of these 
local committees in a number of cases was tremendous. This 
will be treated as a special topic in the investigation of com- 
mittee functions. 

Provincial Con/K-il ///id ('Dunm'ticr* of >SW ; /VY// 3 

x: I'll' ^ 21:5 The membership of the county and town com- 
mittee was regulated as follows : 

1. Each County Committee was to be made up of not less 
than twenty-one persons, elected by the free holders of the 


X:L'IL' 2. In the towns of Edenton, New Bern and 

Wilmington, the Committee was to consist of 
fifteen persons elected by the freeholders of the town. 

3. Every other town having- a right of representation 
might have a Committee of seven members, elected in the 

same manner. 

X:LM:> Town Committees might act in conjunction or 

be consolidated with the committees of counties 
in which they were situated. This latter plan must have 
been followed to a great extent, as will be indicated in the 
the anal}~sis of the work of the various committees. The time 
stipulated for the meetings of town and county committees 
was the first day of their respective courts and as much 
oftener as they might think necessary. In some 
x: 21:5 instances, during the troublous period, the meet- 
ings were so constant as to appear almost like 
one continuous session, as will be seen in the comparative 

view of different sections. 

x: i(>4 The system of government, as to this point 

outlined, was instituted by the Third Provincial 
Congress which met at Hillsboro, August 20, 1775. This 
system, marked out as has been said, on September 9, 1775, 
underwent one great metamorphosis which nevertheless left 
its essential element intact until the meeting of the Consti- 
tutional Convention iq. November, 1776. 

The province, having reached the position deemed at first 

impossible, could no longer tolerate the term "Provincial", 

implying allegiance to England. The Provincial Council 

gave place to the Council of Safety. That this 

f s ',," L was in any way due to partisan politics, as has 

L'os; sil5' been claimed, seems hardly probable. The 

c , ^ ort , 1 , 1 change moreover was more than one of name and 

p. IL' (note) it was apparently regulated by local conditions. 

4 J< i, i nes Spnmt Historical Monofffapk 

The first plan of government, as outlined in September, 
1775, was one of higher central government with wide circles 
of jurisdiction to insure general efficiency by attention to 
local needs and interests. 




The system in its changed state is simpler and has taken 
on the centralized form which suggests the determination to 
guide or to force all parts of the province into uniformity of 
action. The District Committees, which had proved almost 
useless, disappeared by legal enactment. The local com- 
mittees of county or town, ever vigilant in purpose and strong 
in action, began to subside in activity as their functions were 
confidently entrusted to a central body, an embodiment of the 
spirit of all the counties. 

The change was this: The central body was made strong- 
er and changed in name. District Committees disappeared. 
The circle of county committees was less clear as their num- 
ber and function were left undefined. 

Prociiicinl Cniini-il and Committees of Safety 

The Council of Safety, superseding- the Provincial Council, 
was not restricted to meetings every few months. It was in 
session continuously and "the Provincial Congress seemed to 
await its call to come into existence. It had no fixed place 
of meeting and was ubiquitous in influence. It did not de- 
pend for transmission of its will upon an intervening- set of 
district committees, but dealt directly with situations that 
came under its cog-nizance; at times, seeming- scarcely to re- 
quire even the assistance of the local committees. These, in 
readiness to execute orders when called upon, no long-er 
assumed the initiative; any advance on their part was appar- 
ently in isolated instances for purposes of neighborhood 
adjustment, as will be shown in the discussion of county 

The chang-e in the governmental system was, in effect, the 
disappearance of a disused org-an and the increased range of 
function for the part of the org-anism still vital, the exact 
nature of activity being dependent upon the pressure of en- 
vironment. In. general conception and in essence the new 
government was a part of the old system. The Council of 
Safety was a developed form of the Provincial Council, and 
with it the old system simply reached a new stage. 

6 James Sprunt Historical Monograph, 

The political change was effected as follows: 
x: 579 On May 11, 1776, the Fourth Provincial Congress 
at Halifax the same body which, abandoning 
as fruitless the "desire to be reconciled to the mother country 
on constitutional principles", empowered the State delegates 
in the Continental Congress to concur with the 
x:512 delegates of the other colonies in declaring- inde- 
pendence this same Congresss abolished the 
Provincial Council and the six District Com- 
x:579 mittees of Safety and transferred the power of 
x:580 both to a Council of Safety, to sit continuously 
and at any places convenient to said body. This 
body was made up of thirteen members, one from 
x:581 the State at large and two from each each dis- 
x:579 trict, elected in Congress. Persons holding 
military office, etc., were disqualified thereby 
for membership in the Council. The nature of the power 
and work of the Council has a place in the mare specific 

analysis of governmental functions.' 

x:(W2 On July 22, 1776, at Halifax, the Council of 

Safety received the news of the Declaration of 
x:(>9H Independence. The minutes .of August 9, 1776, 
contain the recommendation to the "now inde- 
pendent State of North Carolina" to pay "special attention 
to the election, 15th October next, for delegates in Congress, 
as these must form a constitution for the State to be the cor- 
ner stone of law." Then follows the order for the election of 
five delegates for each county to vote in the next Congress. 
This constitutes the call for the Fifth Provincial Congress, in 
reality the Constitutional Convention. The prompt action of 
the Council calling into operation the Constitutional Conven- 
tiont his call destroying its own being is worthy of attention 
as significant of the temper and purpose of the time and the 
people. The Council of Safety, despite its call for the con- 
vention, seemed unable to adjourn, so great was the pressure 
of business and so many the demands upon its 
x:i)i)(i-70l strength. Four additional days of service at 
Halifax succeeded the call; then followed, in 

1'i'oriin-iiil Council mid ('oinniitti'rx of Xafeti/ 7 

quick succession, series of meeting's in Wake County, Salis- 
bury, and ;<.gain in Halifax. On the first day of the fast ses- 
sion of the Council at Halifax, there was refer- 
x:X7:', c nee to the Provincial Congress to be held at 
Halifax, November 10, 1776, which actually 
x :!]:> convened November 12, 1776. On October 25, 

the Council of Safety ceased to exist. 

The peculiarity in the system of government by the Pro- 
vincial Council and the Committees of Safety, so far as or- 
ganization and period of sway are concerned, is that, in its 
fully developed and legalized form, it is only a part of a 
larger movement which spread in successive waves through- 
out the province. This movement had been authorized by 
provincial enactment, Atfgust 27, 1774, but had 
x:l()47 been in existence, practically speaking, since 
ix : 1011) July 21, 1774 and to a certain extent had been 
ix:74i familiar to the people since Decembers, 1773. 
Moreover the germs of the system must have 
been imbedded in the soil of America from the time it felt 
the touch of Englishmen; this germ is the tendency towards 
strong political control through the power of a committee 
and for the purpose of ultimate liberty in the highest sense. 

Before the County Committees became embodied in the 
system of government as outlined by the Third Provincial 
Congress, they had reached, in individual growth, a point of 
commanding local influence. That this is true will be seen 
from the position of these committees at the time of the 
Second Provincial Congress. Before this is made evident, 
the preceding waves of development in the governmental sys- 
tem, already referred to, require some discussion for the pur- 
pose of indicating the landmarks of advance. Certain dates, 
as before suggested, mark the steps in the progress of Com- 
mittee Government. These lead directly to the position of 
the Committees at the time of the Second Provincial Con- 
gress. After adding this significant-date to the advance move- 
ment, we are prepared to consider the government instituted 
by the Third Provincial Congress in its separate parts and 
various relations. For the progress of events denoting 

8 James Sprimt Historical Monograph 

growth in the system of government may be presented 
through certain situations: 

(1) On December 8, 1773, the Legislature ap- 
ix : 741 pointed a Committee of Correspondence for the 

province; this was a definite step towards com- 
mittee government. 

(2) On July 21, 1774, the call for the First 
ix : 1016 Provincial Congress was made from Wilmington 

at a general meeting of the inhabitants of the 
District. Here a Committee was elected to prepare a circular 
letter to the counties of the province, urging the necessity 
for electing delegates for a Provincial Council. John Harvey, 
as appears in a private letter from Samuel John- 
Jones' "De- ston, had declared for "assembling a convention 
e ' 16 ^' independent of the Governor", after Martin had 
expressed his intention not -to allow another 
Assembly during the period of disturbance. The last As- 
sembly had been dissolved by the Governor, with the pre- 
amble, ''Whereas the Assembly of this Province, 
ix : 955 having assumed to themselves a power unconsti- 
tutional, repugnant to the laws and derogatory 
to the honor and good faith of this province." 

(3) On August 27, 1774, the First Provincial 
ix:-1047 Congress at New Bern authorized County Com- 
mittees of Safety. In this act we have the proof 

of the priority of the County Committee, antedating, in legal 
institution, the District Committee and the Provincial Coun- 
cil put into operation September 9, 1775, during the session 
of the Third Provincial Congress at Hillsboro by more than 
a year. But by the Third Provincial Congress the County 
Committees, already in existence, were made a part of a reg- 
ular corporate administrative system; and it is this system of 
the Provincial Council and the Committees of Safety, in full 
operation together as the machinery of colonial government, 
that is to be studied in its activity, its origin and its growth. 
To return to the significance of the third step in the general 
advance movement; the origin of the County Committee as 
legally instituted, is to be found in this "resolve" of the First 

'iiriiil Council mid Committees of Sof'ti/ 9 

Provincial Congress: "That a committee of 
i\ : HI47 five persons be chosen in e'ach county by such 
persons as accede to this Association (of the 
Congress) to take effectual care that these resolves be prop- 
erly observed and to correspond occasionally with the Provin- 
cial Committee of Correspondence of this Province." 

But the actual origin of county activity is probably more 
remote. It seems not unnatural that some self-constituted 
form of the local committee should have come into play as 
cooperative with the Provincial Committee of Correspondence 
of 1773, though this was primarily for obtaining 
information of the acts of Britain and move- 
1082 ments of other colonies. The assemblies that 

appointed deputies to the First Provincial Con- 

10:5S gress which gave its authority to the local com- 
mittees, drew up resolves and proceeded in much 
the same manner as the regularly constituted local Safety 
Committee. These preliminary bodies, issuing instructions 
to delegates and formulating opinions as to policy, political 
and economic, may be classed in function with the regularly 
constituted Safety Committee. Later, meetings of freehold- 
ers after the Provincial Congress were distinct from the 
Safety Committees. They were merely elective bodies and, 
as such, important; they elected delegates to the Provincial 
Congress and also elected members of the local (town or 
county) Safety Committee. This Safety Committee, selected 
through the meetings of freeholders, had not elective func- 
tion even, as appears later, for filling vacancies in their own 
body. They had, however, kindred prerogative and obliga- 
tion in the selection from their own number of a special 
(inner) Committee of Secrec} T and Inquiry and they had 
also power for the appointment of military officers and the 
judiciary for certain courts. 

(4) The power and position of the local 'Committees at the 

time of the Second Provincial Congress may be shown through 

references to them at this juncture. The Address 

i\:iHM of Governor Martin to the Assembly, Apiil 4, 

1775, contains the following: "The meetings 

10 Juan'* S/y, //,// flixtorinil Mnn<>(/r(iph 

to which the people have been excited, the appointment of 
committees, the violences these little unrestrained and arbi- 
trary tribunals have done to the rights of his majesty's sub- 
jects; the flagrant and unpardonable insults they hate offered 
to the highest authorities of the State by some of their acts, 
which have been made public; and the stop which has been 
put in some of the counties to the regular course of justice 
but too plainly evince their progress here." The reply to the 
Governor's charge is of this nature: "The com- 
ix :11W mittees appointed by the people in the several 
towns and counties of this Colony, in conse- 
quence of the resolutions of the Continental Congress held at 
Philadelphia were the result of necessity, not choice, as the 
only means left them to prevent, as far as in them lay, the 
operation of those oppressive and unconstitutional acts of 
Parliament, endeavored 'to be imposed upou America by 
Great Britain and that the Assembly have not been informed 
of any steps taken by those Committees but such as they were 
compelled to take for that necessity and for the salutary pur- 
pose aforesaid." From these expressions on both sides it is 
evident that the Committees were exercising decided influ- 
ence and making themselves felt as a great force to be met. 

This interchange of sentiment, between Governor Martin 
and the people, regarding Committee influence, to.ok place 
during the time of the noted confusion of Assemblies when 
the body under English auspices and the one under revolu- 
tionary colonial leadership met at New Bern at the same time 
and with much the same membership; Harvey presided over 
both in the two capacities of President of the one body and 
Speaker of the other. The revolutionary body which caused 
the complication of proceedings had been convened because, 
as was explained, "the people had no right to expect that the 
Assembly would be permitted to meet till it was too late to 
send delegates to the Continental Congress at Philadelphia." 
The Governor's usual expedient, resorted to in ordering the 
Congress, on April 5, 1775, "to break up the 
ix : 1187 said meeting and to desist from all such illegal, 
ix : 1211 unwarrantable and dangerous proceedings," and 

ini-inl Council and Committees of Safety 11 

his dissolution of the Assembly, April 8, 1775, because of 
its resolves "tending- to alienate the affections of his Majes- 
esty's subjects"- these proclamations of dissolution left 
full scope to the Provincial Government, the backbone of 
which was Committee jurisdiction. Thus the waves of 
development in the tendencies of government have reached 
that point of legalized incorporation of the local committees 
in the system put into operation by the Third Provincial 
Congress the point toward which we were advancing 1 . 

Having- surveyed the progress towards org-anized Council 
and Committee g-overument, we conclude that in the process 
of growth there may be seen: 

1. A preliminary preparation for the Government by 
Council and local committee in the existence of a General 
Committee of Correspondence for the Colony, which may have 
been the g-erm of Council idea, and in the meeting's of free- 
holders throughout the Colony for patriotic interests. This 
period may be said to end with the First Provincial Congress. 

2. A foundation government with the Congress centre, 
and effective numerous local committees, this period extend- 
ing- from the First to the Third Provincial Congress, a period 
of about one year. 

3. The actual g-overnment of Provincial Council and Com- 
mittees of Safety, covering- a period of something more than 
a year, but broken into two well-defined stages: 

A. The Government by Provincial Council and Commit- 
tees of Safety in district, town and county (these last grow- 
ing in number and influence), extending through a period of 
about eight months, from the Third to the Fourth Provincial 
Congress, which instituted: 

B. The government by the Council of Safety, another 
form of the Provincial Council, with constantly increasing 
functions, supplemented by the local committees which are 
now on the wane in number and activity and 'whose powers 
are absorbed by the Council. This last stage of the system, 
covering about six months, ends with the calling of the Con- 
stitutional Convention by the retiring Council of Safety. 

12 Joule* S/n-init Historical Monograph 

Considering" separately the parts of this government by 
Provincial Council and Committees o'f Safety, it may be seen 

1. The Provincial Council came into being' through an 
enactment of the Third Provincial Congress at Hillsboro on 
September 9, 1775. It was abolished, or more properly 
speaking, transformed on May 11, 1776, through the substi- 
tution of a similar central body, the Council of Safety, by the 
Fourth Provincial Council at Halifax. 1 

The Council of Safety, coming into operation simultane- 
ously with the disappearance of the Provincial Council 
proper, continued in full force until it adjoumed at Halifax, 
Oct. 25, 1776, to give place to the Constitutional Convention, 
the body called into existence by the act of the retiring 
Council. 2 

2. The District Committee of Safety, is not so easily 
traced, for the records of its operations are meagre. Like the 

County Committee, it seems to have had some 
x:24 activity in Wilmington before its regular incor- 
x:25 poration in the system formulated by the Third 
Provincial Congress. But compared with the 
County Committee, the activity was slight. The Congress 
evidently intended the District Committee as a far more vital 
force .than it ever became. Members for each of the six Dis- 
trict Safety Committees of Wilmington, Hillsboro, New 


1. Johnston Court House, Oct. 18-22, 1775. 

2. Johnston Court House, Dec. 18-24, 1775. 

3. New Bern, Feb. 28-March 5, 177(5. 


1. June 5-15, 1776, Wilmington. 

2. June 19-July 1(5, 1776, Dobbs Co. 

3. July 21-Aug. 13, 1776, Halifax. 

4. Aug. 21-28, 1776, Wake. 

5. Sept. 5-12, 1776, Salisbury. 

6. Sept. 27-Oct. 25, 1776, Halifax. 

Provincial Cn/n-ll mid Committees of Safety 13 

Bern, Kdenton, Halifax and Salisbury were at 
\:210 once selected by the Congress. 1 The extent of 
x:2l5 jurisdiction was definitely marked out for the 

District Committee. The actual work of these 
bodies will be discussed in connection with the functions of 
the government as a whole, when the Proceedings of Wil- 
mington and New Bern District Committees will be indicated. 

Besides the minutes of the Wilmington District 

x: 414, 415, for two meetings there are records of eight 

iH' ^KO' meetings at New Bern. In addition there are 

4112' 463. some references to other District Committees 

which will be gathered tog-ether from the min- 
utes of the various proceedings throughout the province. 

3. The local committees were for both town and county, 
but the two blended, as will be shown later, so as scarcely to 
require separate treatment. The County Committee, with 
its remote origin, its legalized separate existence, from the 
time of the First Provincial Congress and its incorporation 
into a regular system by the Third Provincial Congress, was 
the most active factor of the body politic until the law of the 
Fourth Provincial Congress put the Council of Safety in 
operation. From that time the County Committee declines 
in prominence. The Council, holding its sessions in various 
parts of the province, became as it were, a supreme 
authority in each locality and the county committees 
though utilized to some extent to the end of Provincial gov- 


lxxiv:2:?7 S.\USBI T KY: Anson, Rowan, Mecklenburg, Tryon, Guilford, 
Surry, Burko, and Diet, of Washington. 

HiLixmmo: Orange, Granville, Wake, Chatham and Caswell. 
HAIJFAX: Halifax, Northampton, Edgeeombe and Bute. 
EDKXTOX: Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, .Currituck. 
Bertie, Tyrrell, Hertford, Martin and Camden. 

Xi:\\ BEKX: (.raven, Carteret, Beaufort, Johnston, Hyde, 

Dobbs and Pitt. 

WILMINGTON: New Hanover, Bladen, Onslow, Duplin and 


14 Jarnc* Sjini/// Hiinrir<tl 

ernment. were gradually lost sight of as an independent 

Having- examined the machinery of the system of Provin- 
cial Government as a whole and through its separate parts, 
and having- watched its rise and decline in a general way, we 
have still to investig-ate the vital functions of the g-overn- 
ment. These were of immense rang-e, practically embracing- 
the entire g-amut of the legislative, the executive and judic- 

The powers of the Council as outlined by the 

.\ : 208, 209, Third Provincial Congress were about as fol- 

210, lows: It was authorized to certify appointments 

of officers in the army during- the recess of 
Congress and to fill vacancies; to suspend members of army 
or militia when deemed necessary for the public service; to 
order court martials; to direct, in conjunction with subordin- 
ate committees of safety, all military affairs of the province; 
to reject at discretion officers chosen by the people; to compel 
debtors about to remove from the Province to give security, 
etc., etc., and to draw on the Treasury sums necessary for 

public service. In g-eneral, the Provincial Coun- 
x:209 cil was empowered "to transact all matters as 

members might judge expedient to strengthen 

and defend the Colony, so as the same shall not extend to 

altering- or suspending any act or resolution of the Congress." 

The Council was responsible to Congress for 

x:209, 210. its proceeding's and for an itemized account of 

moneys used for the public service. The Coun- 
x:20it cil could not set aside a sentence of Court Mar- 

tial; this was subject to the confirmation of 
Congress. These restrictions, apparently of no practical sig-- 
nificance, and the one prohibiting- action counter to any Re- 
solve of Congress may seem only formal. In effect, the 
power of the Council seems identical with that of Congress. 
Thus were the functions of the larg-e central body, composed 
of at least five persons from each county of the Province, 
transferred, during- the interim of Congressional sessions, to 
a body of thirteen persons, with assistants to do its bidding- 

l Coiniril ami Committees of &(if<'li/ 15 

in the local Safety Committees throughout the province. 

The minutes of the Provincial Council contain an exten- 
sive range of proceeding's in many fields. Among the mili- 
tary enactments are the following: Officers of military com- 
panies were confirmed; certain rights of appointment, etc., 
were assigned to Captains. Orders were issued for enlisting 
minute men; for military training; for securing arms and 
ammunition; for division of certain regiments; for rearrang- 
ing battalions according to decree of Congress; for regulation 
of military rank; for providing military escort for convey- 
ance of powder from point to point; for dismissal of certain 
militia; for the listing of men in service; for recruiting; for 
resisting hostile troops; provision for report of Captains to 
Committees of towns and counties, of districts, etc. 

The appointments by the Council extended over a large 
field. They were for such positions as these: Commission- 
ers for Edenton, New Bern, Wilmington and Salisbury dis- 
tricts; Commissioner and paymaster for District of Hillsboro. 
Vacancies were filled in the District Committee of New Bern. 
Persons in each of the six districts were appointed to make 
guns. Treasurers for the northern and southern division dis- 
tricts of the province were selected. 

The enactments for financial necessities were numerous.. 
Each of the two public treasurers in northern and southern 
districts was empowered to draw on the general (Continental) 
Treasurers for sums within certain limits. The Council 
authorized orders on treasurers for proclamation money, for 
provisions, arms and ammunition, medicines, care of soldiers 
in hospitals, clothing for troops, extra cost of recruiting 
parties, payment to messengers of state, completing fortifica- 
tions, erecting breastworks, and for particular military move- 

The special orders are of a miscellaneous nature. Troops 
were to be supplied with blankets; express was sent to dele- 
gates of Continental Congress; vessels were chartered at 
ports of New Bern, Edenton and Wilmington; security laws 
were made for protection of creditors. Orders were given 
for making of carriages for cannon; for the care of lead; for 

16 James Sjyrunt Hi4orind Monograph 

additional rations for soldiers for providing- barracks. There 
was a rejection of a petition for shipping- naval stores; any 
order for securing-, with help of military if necessary, certain 
public papers of the Court of Chancery; advice for suppression 
of disaffection, etc. Among- the decisions were these: Pay- 
masters not to be regarded as military officers and, therefore, 
not disqualified for seats in Provincial Congress; premature 
election of delegates and committeemen in certain counties 
legalized; late elections in certain counties authorized, etc. 

Some of the regulations which concern town, county and 
district management are of special value in indicating- rela- 
tive power, function and organization, while others show 
merely a certain amount of supervision on the part of the 
Council. Days were desig-nated for elections in Wake and 
Tryon counties. Local committees were authorized to make 
reg-ulations for security <3f debts; this is followed by an ex- 
planation to the effect that the function is impracticable for 
the Council, as creditors have to await the session of the 
Council to make application. There may be a sug-gestion in 
this communication of the conditions which led to the grad- 
ual taking- on of power and the later independence of the 
local committee. Town and County and District committees 
.were urg-ed to forward military service. Committees of Wil- 
mington and Brunswick were advised to prevent communica- 
tion from the Province with Governor Martin; correspondence 
with Martin to be inspected for approval by Committee of 
Town and by commanding- officer in town. The Wilmington 
District Committee was empowered to cut off supplies to ships 
of war in the Cape Fear river; there seems to be some recog- 
nition of the position of the District Committee as superior 
to that of the County. An election in Onslow County was 
set aside on account of the refusal of the Committee to sub- 
scribe to the "Test"; tha Council recommended a new election. 
A recommendation appears for an election in Surry County, 
advice being for five representatives or less to Congress, and 
twenty-one or more Committeemen. There were orders to 
Town and County Committees for the appointment of persons 
to take care of gunpowder, saltpetre and sulphur of vicinity. 

(nmn-il and ( 'oiiniiith'i'x of Safety 17 

An order to the Committee of Safety for the District of Salis- 
bury, "to meet the first Tuesday of February next for dis- 
patch of business," is another one of the rare allusions to 
District Committees whose minutes are lacking-. Town and 
County Committees were ordered to furnish captains of min- 
ute men and militia with copies of the "Test" recommended 
by the Provincial Congress; failures to sign the "Test" were 
to be reported. Suspected persons of town and county were 
to be disarmed by order of local committees. 

There were Resolves which reveal something- of the rela- 
tions with other colonies: The President of the Council to 
correspond with Councils of Safety of Virginia and South 
Carolina; to solicit g-unpowder from South Carolina (draft on 
Continental Treasury to be given); to appoint Committee of 
two to confer at Charles Town with- Committees from Coun- 
cils of Safety of South Carolina and Georgia, in accordance 
with recommendation of Continental Congress; Committee of 
three to confer with Committee of Safety of Virginia. 

Among the general resolutions hardly admitting of classi- 
fications are these: 

Request to Continental delegates to transport gunpowder 
from Pennsylvania; request to Continental delegates for liter- 
ature to counteract influence of Tory pamphlets; exclusion of 
persons not signing "Test" from benefit of s-ecurity laws; 
prohibition of export of provisions from province without 
leave of Congress, except in case of return in port of salt, 
arms or ammunition. Resolves of appreciation are found; 
thanks to Colonel James Moore and troops for late services in 
suppression of insurrection of Highlanders and Regulators; 
tribute to Colonel Howe for services in Virginia, etc. These 
minutes contain also orders such as the one for convey ing Gen- 
eral Donald McDonald, taken prisoner at battle of Moore's* 
Creek, to Halifax prison. 

The penal jurisdiction to uproot disaffection and prevent 
objectionable influence was a great feature in the transition 
provincial government. It is possibly even more prominent 
in the work of local committees and that of the Council of 

18 Jamcx Sprunt Ifi.^toriml M<nio</r(i/>/i 

Safety than in the acts of the Provincial Council. In the 
minutes of this body we find such decisions as the following-; 

Certain persons to be tried by the District Committee of 
Halifax where witnesses are convenient; this ruling- has a 
double interest in two connections already alluded to. It is a 
second reference to one of the District Committees whose 
minutes are lacking-; and the "trying- of cases where wit- 
nesses are convenient" is another clue to the growth of busi- 
ness for the local committee. There is another reference to 
the Committee of Perquimans County one of those lacking- 
minutes in the requirement of some bond for g-ood behavior 
(in connection with commercial interests) to be given that 
Committee. The remaining- resolutions are illustrative of 
regular proceedings and not otherwise of import e. g., a 
ruling- ag-ainst the holding- of a militia position by person 
inimical to the cause; an order for delivery of two prisoners 
from the Syren man-of-war, on parole at* New Bern, to Com- 
mittee of Halifax; order for close confinement in jail of one 
who has expressed a wish that "America would be subdued 
this instant"; an order for court martial; and instructions for 
use of necessary force in compelling- attendance of witnesses 
at next Provincial Congress at Halifax, in case of insurrec- 
tion of Hig-hlanders and Regulators. 

When the Provincial government reached its second stage 
and the Provincial Council gave place to the Council of 
Safety, the proceedings were of a somewhat different type. 
The action of the Council of Safety, on the whole, seems 
even more strenuous, confident, direct and extensive than 
that of the Provincial Council. For as practically the only 
legislative, executive and judicial power of the province, 
except the now declining local Safety Committee, on it 
this body of thirteen members devolved the whole 
machinery of civil government, besides the crushing of dis- 
affection and the management of military affairs. The 
efficiency and enterprise of the local committees despite the 
inaction of the districts as such were so great as to leave 
hardly a need for the Provincial Council. Though it per- 

Provincial ( 1 onii/-il ami f'omiiiit.trr.-t qf Safety 1'.) 

formed its assigned tunctions, the actual duration of its three 
sessions was not all of three weeks. Its successor, the 
Council of Safety, with new powers and moving- from place 
to place in the province, acting alone, with no legal semb- 
lance of District Commutes and with the County Committees 
fast losing significance, this body consumed, in. almost con- 
tinuous session, about four months. 

The Fourth Provincial Congress which on 
x:~>7!) May 11, 1776, instituted the second stage of this 
government, abolished the Provincial Council 
x : ">*! and the District Committees and outlined the 
functions of the Council of Safety: "All mat- 
xiAs] ters heretofore taken cognizance of by the late 
Provincial Council or the several late commit- 
tees of safety of this Province and -undetermined shall be 
taken cognizance of by the Council of Safety:" 

"The Council thus constituted to be vested 
x:")Si) with power to execute all things necessary for 
the defence and protection of the colony, pro- 
vided they shall not abrogate any resolution of Congress, 
emit bills of credit, levy taxes or duties, draw on the Conti- 
nental Treasury, erect offices or courts, or try or condemn 
except where permitted by Re solve of Congress. " But the Re- 
solves of Congress included the assignment of most of these 
perogatives to the Council, and if any were 
x:.">so omitted there is no evidence of the fact in the 
acts of the Council. 

Express powers were stipulated for trying and 

x:oso restraining those inimical to the interests of 

America. Within a liberal limit, the Conti- 

x:oso nental Treasury was open to the order of the 

Council. Special recommendation was made to 

the Council to establish Court of Admiralty and to appoint 

judges of same, besides port officers, commissioners, etc. 

Nothing less than an outline of some of the proceedings of 
the Council will serve to show the range of interest and the 
remarkable power and efficiency of this body. 

20 Jante* X/>nint l!itorlt-trl Monograph 

At the time of the Council of Safety administration, political 
situations and necessities were becoming 1 complicated. The 
principal needs to be met were those of internal peace, defence 
against England, and protection against the Indians. Rela- 
tions with other colonies and co-operation with these, for 
mutual aid, were prominent at this period of administration. 
Salt and gunpowder were the absolutely necessary and some- 
times almost unobtainable articles. The fact had its effect 
on commercial regulation. The Council was in touch with 
the South Carolina delegates in the Continental Congress at 
Philadelphia and in harmony with Continental spirit. 

The minutes of the Council regarding- military matters 
include the setting- aside according- to privileges granted in 
advice from the Continental Congress of a ruling by the 
Congress on September 3rd, directing two North Carolina 
battalions under Moore to proceed to New York. Among the 
military enactments, we find an order to Brigadier General Per- 
son to furnish men from the Hillsboro brigade, with Colonel 
James Taylor in command, to' join Brigadier General Ruther- 
ford on the western frontiers; an order to General Rutherford to 
send three hundred men from Salisbury District to join the 
Virginia forces against the Cherokees; an order for troops 
stationed by Rutherford to continue on the frontiers of Tryon 
County; a countermanding of the order for troops from Hills- 
boro, as Rutherford's force had proved sufficient for the pro- 
tection of the frontiers, etc. 

North Carolina was endeavoring to unite with South Caro- 
lina against the Cherokees of the lower valleys, and with 
Virginia against the overhill Cherokees. An independent 
Company, at Occacock, was ordered to convey iron ordnance 
to Pamlico Sound to be transported thence to Virginia; stip- 
ulations were made as to manner of procuring and guarding 
gunpowder; General Moore instructed to report condition of 
troops; to station forces at New Bern and Wilmington, etc.; 
General Howe to reclaim soldiers of regular North Carolina 
army enlisted unjustly by South Carolina; also to remand all 
North Carolina troops now in Georgia. These re merely 

Council <nxl C'nnniiiUees of Safety 21 

illustrative acts relating- to military affairs, and in this field, 
besides campaign orders, there were army appointments, and 
minute directions for trial for delinquencies, provision of 
arms, distribution of Military Guides to soldiers, etc., etc. 

The financial appropriations made by the Council range 
from ^"3, to ,3,000. Provision for contingencies was con- 
siderable. Accurate calculation as to this feature of govern- 
ment is impracticable; but rough estimate of partial expenses 
gives a result of ,197,277. Outlays were liberal, and minu- 
tiae, as well as great powers of state, received attention. 
The minutes contain records of orders on the treasury to 
cover expense for salt works; musket. makers; a certain cargo; 
imported gunpowders payment of militia; examining alleged 
lead mines; bringing prisoner to council; support of prisoner 
on parole; disarming Tories; apprehending deserters; obtain- 
ing iron; recruiting; needs of Commissaries etc., etc. 

Among the general orders are instructions for valuation of 
land in Cartaret County; gunpowder from Virginia to be sent 
to*a certain point; purchase of Osnaburgs for tents (quantity 
specified); supply of blankets and clothing for troops; search 
for public papers in Cumberland County; valuation of im- 
ported cannon; purchase of provender for Light Horse at 
.Cross Creek; Commissioner to 'be dispatched to northern states 
to contract for making pig iron; horses in possession of per- 
sons in Bute and Granville counties to be brought in good 
order to next Congress; persons having guns used in service 
in expedition against the Tories to bring same to Council or 
make good the value; stopping sale of salt in Cumberland 
County, except to private families; regulation of the selling 
price of salt; certain delivery of salt from Cross Creek out of 
quantity intended for Granville; salt taken by court martial at 
Cross Creek to be received by Commissioner of County of Wake 
for distribution among the soldiers of late expedition to Moore's 
Creek; salt to those superintending iron-works; salt to those 
on late expedition and to families of those now in service 
against Indians; application for kettles for boiling salt to be 
pressed to the point of forcing owner to sell for payment in 

22 Juan'* S'/iriint I//xtor!r<il. Monograph 


dollar bills of state the man had demanded Continental or 
proclamation money; wagons to convey load of bacon and 
pork to Wilmington to be disposed of there; beef and pork in 
danger of damage to be sold at a sacrifice in Tarboro. 

Salt and gunpowder, obviously the predominant interests 
in these orders, were also vital features in matters of com- 
mercial relations, as exportation was allowed on condition of 
return importation of cargoes of salt, arms and ammunition. 
Commercial decrees were important elements of Council gov- 
ernment. There are records of orders such as these: Pur- 
chase of boats by Captains of Independent Company of sea 
coast; Admiralty judge to proceed with trial of the King 
William seized as British property; port commissioners to 
receive manifest of cargo before alloVing vessels to proceed, 
(military to be utilized for purpose if necessary); sundry ves- 
sels which had been sunk to obstruct navigation and had 
been taken possession of, to be subject to order of Council or 
Congress; materials for armed vessel King- Tammanv, to be 
supplied to Commissioners at Edenton out of Wilmington 
public stores; the King Tammanv to protect trade at Occa- 
cock Bar until return of the Pennsylvania farmer, to cruise 
between 32 and 35 lat., within eighty leagues of shore, 
then to return to Occacock; corresponding orders for the 
Pennsylvania Farmer, alternating service with King Tam- 
many; change of plan for those vessels on account of unfit- 
ness of the Pennsylvania Farmer to proceed, and probability 
of appearance of Jamaica fleet; the brig General Washington 
to protect trading vessels in the Bar; appointment of Com- 
mander and other officers of brig Betsy in Edenton Bay, bound 
to Europe with cargo of 'tobacco; rescinding appointment of 
officers for the brig Betsy on account of owners' objections 
and matter left to the Committee of Edenton. Maritime 
courts were established by the Council at Edenton, Bath, 
Wilmington and New Bern. 

Among the special permits of the Council, there are a 
number of commercial import. Leave is given in certain 
cases to proceed against enemies of the thirteen colonies as if 

// it nd Committees of Safety 23 

the letters of Marque and Reprisal solicited from the Conti- 
nental Congress had already been received; in special cases, 
and finally as a general ruling, there was granted the privi- 
lege, before alluded to, to all vessels to export to French, 
Dutch or neutral West Indies, cargoes of oak staves, etc., on 
the condition of certain return imported cargoes; a certain 
brig Polly is allowed to depart; leave is given for the pur- 
chase for Bermuda of a cargo of provisions in this colony; a 
grant is made endorsing an appeal to Congress in a certain 
case regarding a grievance against the Council in matter of 
the brig William. 

The Recommendations of the Council endorse certain 
exchange of prisoners; advise Washington District (the set- 
tlement of Watauga and Holstein) to send a delegation to the 
Provincial Council to submit application for incorporation in 
the state; instruct officers marching against Indians to restore 
to Washington District property taken from the people by 
Indians instigated by British; express opinion as against 
allowing any soldiers besides voters at ensuing' election of 
delegates throughout the State. 

The records of the Council include mention of communica- 
tions with other colonies; e. ^., the following: Received 
from Virginia two tons gunpowder; order, as cited elsewhere, 
to deliver iron ordnance to Virginia; the order for men from 
the Salisbury District to join Virginia forces against the 
Cherokees; permission to Georgia to recruit soldiers (other 
than those already enlisted) in North Carolina. Besides the 
intercourse with other colonies, there was frequent exchange 
of letters, etc., with the State and Continental delegates. 
The full description of North Carolina conditions and needs 
with request for the procuring and transmission, by wagons, 
of gunpowder and iron plates for salt pans, would serve as 
the typical letter from the Colony to their Continental dele- 

The disciplinary acts of the Council form one of their 
greatest channels of activit}'. These are some o'f the items 
of the minutes: Supension of a Captain of Independent 

24 S'^rurtt Historical Monograph 

Company for neglect of duty; removal from County of Bruns- 
wick to New Hanover and securit} 1 - ,500 required for good 
behavior on account of a charge of correspondence with the 

enemy; certain Mrs. and Mrs. to remove from 

Wilmington to some point twenty miles up the river (suppo- 
sition a charge of objectionable sentiment); escaped prison- 
ers to be returned to Halifax; order for a removal, within ten 
days, from residence in New Bern to the County of Dobbs for 
two months to return on bond (offence, using inimical influ- 
ence). Numerous cases occur of summons on suspicion of 
disaffection; fines for refusal to serve in militia; one Rev. 

Mr. of Orange, forced to move at his own expense, 

under military oversight, into certain locality of Perquimans 
he had failed to obey a milder order; certain men were sep- 
arated by being put on parole in different localities; in some 
cases a considerable range of movement was allowed in the 
parole, in others the parole was strict and oversight close; 
and actual confinement in jail was as frequent as the parole. 
Occasionally there is note of some proceeding not directly 
concerning disaffection, as in efforts to apprehend a high- 
wayman. An action of some special interest was that 
against a "New Light" Baptist preacher of Anson who per- 
sisted on religious grounds, in declaring views against bear- 
ing arms. He was put on parole in Edenton. 

But perhaps the greatest energy displayed by the Council 
was in the detection and punishment of those guilt}- of pass- 
ing counterfeit money. This seems to have supplied a 
motive to the Council in the choosing of locality for a ses- 
sion of their body. The culprit was strictly dealt with and 
many cases were dispatched. 

The impression from the penal proceedings of the Council 
is nevertheless one of great care in pronouncing judgment. 
There were many cases of discharge after the required prom- 
ise of "good behavior 1 ' on the taking of the oath. Parole 
was frequently extended. There were cases of release accom- 
panied by the naturalizing edict; there were discharges from 
custody with and without bond; grants were given for depart- 

rrori iii-id! Comic/I dn<! Committfc* <>!' Suj'rfi/ 25 

urc from America (upon application); complete exoneration 
with full explanation seems to have been occasionally among 
the acts; finally, very decided advice was given for release of 
certain state prisoners in Philadelphia. 

The later resolutions of the Council contain allusion to the 
New Test oath, necessary after the change of North Caro- 
lina from province to state or after the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, Even at this late period there were recommenda- 
tions for persuasion of malcontents and disaffected. 

The Council of Safety, having caused the general Procla- 
mation of the Declaration of Independence and recommended 
the election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention 
and settled the last needs of the province, went out of exist- 
ence; and left it to the representatives of the people to pro- 
vide for the needs of .the State. 

A subject of special interest in the recommendations of the 
Council of Safety is found in the advice to County Commit- 
tees. The Fourth Provincial Congress which instituted the 
government by the Council of Safety is not specific as regards 
the authority of the local committee below that of the Dis- 
trict power which was abolished. True the phrase, used in 
vesting in the Council all power which had been formerly 
exercised by the "late Committees of Safety in the Province" 
might be understood as including the County 
x:.">si Comittees. But these did not go out of exist- 
ence. There are records of meetings after this 
period and the recommendations of the Council, just alluded 
to, testify to the fact that County Committees were recog- 
nized and utilized till the end of transition government in 
North Carolina. These last recommendations to the various 
local committees must be reserved for a place in the dis- 
cussion of the latest period of county activity. At present 
they are mentioned merely as a significant feature of the 
proceedings of the Council of Safety. 

The history of the County Committee, that most important 
factor in provincial government, to be given in outline from 
the period preceding the First Provincial Congress, will be 

26 Jiiiiic* Sprit/if IIixi<>ri<-(il Monograph 

considered in connection with the slight activity of the Dis- 
trict Committee. The work of the occasional town commit- 
tee will also be regarded as in organic relation with that of 
the County. 

The proceedings of fourteen counties, with an aggregate 
of something like one hundred and eighty-five meetings, to 
be considered in this sketch, with a glance at committees of 
other counties where minutes are lacking, may serve to indi- 
cate the range in function of the local committees of Safety 
in the State. If there were committees in all the counties, as J, 

Seawell Jones seems to think, they were proba- 

Jones'^ De- ^ly of the same general type as those on record. 

201. There are indications of some distinctive trends 

of interest in different parts of the State, but, 
in general, the committee proceeding's of different counties 
reveal similar methods and a common purpose. 

J. Seawell Jones says: "The advancement of 

Jones' "Di- t ^ e o- rea t American cause and not iustice was 
fence : p, 

205. the motto of the County Committees. They not 

infrequently usurped the powers of the County 
Court and subjected the gravity and reason of the law to the 
control of the popular will." He refers also to their "pass- 
ing of the bounds of Congressional decree in the use of the 
whipping post and the dungeon." Sabine writes: "The 

wise man of Israel said, 'a brother offended is 

Atnerittu, harder to be won than a strong city.' Those 
p. 75. who took upon themselves the sacred name of 

sons of liberty needlessly and sometimes in their 
very wantonness offended, beyond all hope of recall, persons 
who hesitated and doubted and who for the moment claimed 
to occupy the position of neutral." This author regards 
some of the work of the Committee as the exercise of mob 
law. Yet he states that "wherever there was defection, 
conspiracy or treason, there were to be seen the the stealthy 

footsteps of some one or more loyalists" that 

American there were bands of Tories lying in wait for the 
Loyalists: J 

'p. 74 unarmed, and another class endeavoring to emit 

iiin'iil f'mi ncif <m</ (''inniiiittecx of Safety 27 

and pass immense sums of counterfeit money in order to aid 
in the depreciation of Continental money that Gov. Martin 
succeeded in embodying- a force of fifteen hun- 
'"'"""" dred men that nearly or quite nine hundred 
and fifty of Ferguson's command at Kings' 
Mountain were Tories that in the Battle of 
Moore's Creek, Colonel Caswell took eight hundred and ninety- 
four prisoners, every man of whom, officers and soldiers were 
loyalists that in Anson County, Governor Mar- 
tin had two hundred and twenty-seven loyal 
' .,- addresses; in Guilford, one hundred and fifteen; in 
Rowan and Surry, one hundred and ninety-five 
that the banks of the Cape Fear river,, the valleys of its remote 
sources, and the territory bordering on the Deep and Haw 
rivers, which embrace the present counties of Moore, Orange, 
Chatham, Guilford and Randolph, and then as now compris- 
ing the very heart of North Carolina, were overrun with 
Tories also that in the County of Cumberland, the adher- 
ents of the crown outnumbered the Whigs and led to the 
ravaging of estates. 

In such a situation, feeling the weight of British oppres- 
sion and later animated by the spirit of independence, with 
no Governor and no courts, .except the ineffectual county 
tribunals, some vigorous action on the part of the State may 
be accounted for. Arbitrary as were the committees, there 
is no doubt, as Rumple remarks in his history of Rowan 
County, that they "awakened zeal, suppressed disaffection, 
embodying militia companies, providing ammunition, sup- 
porting the cause of freedom." 

In working through the confusion of meetings of freehold- 
ers, Safety Committees of County and town these in sepa- 
rate and combination forms, districtc ommittees, district and 
town committees as one and joint meetings of- different coun- 
ties in passing through this web of meetings to something 
like clear analysis, there are a few facts and principles of 
importance. These, mentioned before to an extent, require 
emphasis here. 

28 James Sjrrunt Historical Monograph 

1. The first meeting's of freeholders, while primarily for 
the election of delegates to the First Provincial Congress, 
assumed something' of the nature of the County Safety com- 
mittee as afterwards constituted by the Congress; later free- 
holders' meetings were distinct from Safety Committees and 
yet the source of these as controlling the membership. 

2. In most cases the town committee seems to have been 
lost in the county committee, though in a few instances, per- 
haps, they remained separate bodies. 

3. Occasionally the town was so completely the centre of 
activity as to absorb all county interests and thus the latter 
merged in the former, instead of the reverse. 

4. District Committees were not active bodies. From the 
first, the local committees seem to -have gone beyond the 
orders of the superior bodies and to hav left them nothing 
to do. 

5. Of the occasional combination bodies there were three 
types which will be pointed out in special cases in the course 
of this analysis. 

(a) The union of District and County or Town. 

(b) The joint meeting of County and Town. 

(c) The co-operation of two County Committees through 
the presence in the one of representatives from the other. 

And in one case to be mentioned there is a combination of 
"(b)" and "(c)". 

6. Meetings were by no means confined to the regular, 
legally stipulated times but were called at discretion, which 
seems often to have been in quick succession. 

The records included in this review show the meeting in 
Rowan County, August 8, 1774, as the first of the local com- 
mittee meetings, and that in Chowan, Oct. 15, 1776, at Eden- 
ton, as the last. 

The first meetings in Rowan, Pitt, Johnstone, Anson, 
Granville, Chowan and Halifax were assemblies called to 
elect delegates to the First Provincial Congress, the primary 
object of which was the selection of delegates to represent 
North Carolina at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. 

Council. <ui<l ('oiiDiiittri'* nf Safety 29 

Probably there were meeting's of freeholders in other coun- 
ties for the same purpose, but these at least resembled some- 
what the later Safety Committee. 

Between the opening- of the First and Second Provincial 
Congresses, the meetings recorded are as follows: 

2 meeting's in Rowan, 
7 in Pitt, 

3 in Chowan, 

1 in Halifax, 

27 in Wil in ing-ton, 

3 in Craven. 

Between the opening- of the Second and Third Provincial 

4 meeting's in Rowan, 
9 in Pitt, 

22 in Wilmington, 

2 for District of Wilming-ton, 
6 in Craven, 

1 in Northampton, 
1 in Tryon. 

Between the beginning- of the Third Provincial Congress 
and the First Provincial Council: 

5 meetings in Rowan, 

4 in Pitt, 

5 in Wilmington, 

3 in Craven, 
1 in Tryon, 
5 in Surry. 

In like manner, between First and Second Provincial 

5 in Rowan, 

4 in Pitt, 

1 in Halifax, 
10 in Wilmington, 

1 in Tryon, 

Between Second and Third Provincial Council: 
3 in Rowan, 
3 in Pitt, 

30 Juan'* Sjn-1'nt Historical Monograph 

19 in Wilmington, 
8 for District of New Bern, 
3 in Try on. 

Between the opening- of the Third Council and Fourth 

1 meeting; in Pitt, 

1 in Wilmington. 

Leaving the first for the second stage of the Council Sys- 
tem, we have, between the beginning of the Fourth Congress 
and First Council of Safety: 

2 meetings in Rowan, 
1 in Pitt. 

After the Council of Safety session begin, local committee 
meetings appear rare'. We note only the following: 

1 in Pitt near the close of the second session of the 

Council of Safety in Dobbs county, 

1 in Pitt during early part of third session of the 

Council of Safety at Halifax, 

1 in Rowan, latter part of the same session of 


1 in Rowan during first part fourth session of Coun- 
cil in Wake county, 

1 in Guilford (minutes not recorded), and 

1 in Orange during same session of Council, 

1 in Chowan during first part last and sixth session- 

of Council at Halifax. 
Thus we have noted meetings as follows: 
24 in Rowan, 
32 in Pitt, 

1 in Johnson, 

1 in Anson, 

1 in Granville, 
5 in Chowan, 

3 in Halifax, 

84 in Wilmington, 

2 in Wilmington District, 
8 in Craven, 

< i on/ir!l and Com milter* of Snftf;/ 31 

8 in Craven, 

9 in New Bern District, 
1 in Northampton, 

6 in Tryon, 
4 in Surry, 
1 in Orang-e, 
1 in Guilford. 

These, if not complete, are sufficient to supply types of the 
local committees throughout the Province. 

In general, the subjects which occupied the attention of the 
Provincial Council and the Council of Safety were those 
which consumed the time of the committees. Each Com- 
mittee elected from its members its inner Committee of 
Secrecy and Inquiry and then passed to its legislative, 
judicial and executive work, as business. developed. 

In the meeting's which preceded the First Provincial Con- 
gress, the committees approved the calling- of the Provincial 
Congress and the convening of a Continental Congress, and 
formulated views as to policy, etc. After the meeting of the 
First Congress, the committees had only to approve the 
Resolves of Congress and proceed to meet practical and 
immediate needs. The County of Rowan, as 
-Rowan Rumple remarks, "showed itself in the forefront 
of liberal and patriotic opinions." Its place of 
14s! meeting was Salisbury, and here, as appears 
generally the case in other counties, there seems 
to have been no town committee distinct from that of the 

Some of the resolutions, recommendations and proceedings 
in Rowan, for the twenty-four meetings, from August 8, 
1774, throughout the persistent work of the Committee 
extending at least as late as the Fourth Session of the Coun- 
cil of Safety, may be briefly indicated. 

We find the conventional resolution of loyalty to the House 
of Hanover; the protest against action of British ministry 
and parliament; approval of American union for self-protec- 
tion; opinion in favor of non-importation; encouragement of 

32 Jainrx S/H-inif Ilixtorirdl M(>iio</r<iph ,. 

home manufacture; decision that objectors to the Resolutipns 
of the Provincial Congress should be branded as "enemies to 
the Country." There is an acknowledgement to the deputies 
to the Provincial Congress from county and town; financial 
provisions; appointments; address to militia; orders for list 
of taxable property, census rolls, etc. The signing of the 
Test Oath to insure faithfulness to the American cause was 
required; advice was published as to dangerous nature of the 
Governor's proclamation, etc. The special Committee of 
Correspondence and Inquiry investigated and reported 
infringements of the law of the Provincial Congress. Cen- 
sure and instructions followed pertaining- to matters such as 
excess selling- of rice, gunpowder, the publication of an 
objectionable paper called "Protest," which was ordered 
placed on whipping- post and gallows in token of its con- 
temptible character. Censure was not confined in any of the 
counties to ordinary rebuke. Imprisonment was common. 
But the minutes of Rowan contain a considerable number of 
pardons and discharges. There were .a number of special 
grants of permission by the Committee for the bringing- of 
suits, besides orders for security and confiscations to protect 
creditors, etc. Relations with other counties may be seen 
from some of the proceeding's: As, decision to apply to 
neighboring counties for gunpowder; to send to Tryon a 
prisoner accused of plots with Indians; to solicit friendly con- 
ference with people of Yadkin for purpose of quieting dis- 
affection; consideration of complaint from Surry about some 
seizing of some guns; advice to Committees of Brunswick, 
Wilmington and Cross Creek to prevent communication with 
Governor Martin. 

The form used in Rowan County to denounce one refusing 
to sign the "Test" or to follow requirements of the Commit- 
tee is, in effect, the same as that of other counties and illus- 
trates the nature of Committee disfavor: 

"Resolved, therefore, that by disavowing all 

connection with his county in the present measure has, as far 
as in his power, relinquished the rights of the people and 

Provincial Council and Committees of Safety 33 

opposed them, to be illegally and unconstitutionally taxed by 
the British ministry, which has a tendency to spread sedition 
amongst his majesty's loyal subjects in the County of Rowan. 
For which he is justly deemed by this committee an enemy to 
his country and should be treated as such by all his majesty's 
loyal subjects in America." 

The character of the functions of the local committees cor- 
responded in general to the work of the Provincial Council 
and the Council of Safety. The mode of procedure in Rowan 
County, as just outlined, is typical of the method and scope of 
the other local committees. A full description of the business 
dispatched by these local committees would involve much rep- 
etition. Therefore, it is hoped that the attempt to select 
somewhat distinctive features only, from the committees now 
remaining for discussion, will serve to show the whole work 
without conveying any sense of disproportion in the accom- 
plishments of the various sections of the State. This by no 
means implies however that all parts of the State were equally 
active. The Wilmington Committee, without question, occu- 
pies the leading place; its geographical position combined 
with other circumstances necessitated constant vigilance. 
But the other committees seem to have performed their work 
in full accord with the demands and the spirit of the time. 
The Pitt County Committee meetings in Martinboro extend 
from August 15, 1774, to July 23, 1776. The County is thus 
noticeable for early activity and late disappearance, its last 
recorded meeting, so fat as we have seen, being during the 
Third Session of the Council of Safety. Its activity, through- 
out the period of Provincial government, also seems distrib- 
uted so as to suggest that it was constant and uniform. . 

.Pitt County is inclined to elaborate the theory of the 
rights of government in those first Resolves against British 
encroachments. An early plan was made for contributions 
for the relief of Boston as was also the case in other counties. 
Patrols were appointed and given power to shoot resisting 
negroes. In addition to the usual investigation and summon- 
ing to appear before the Committee, is an arraignment for 

34 James Sprunt Historical Monograph 

disrespectful reference to the proceedings of Congress. Cul- 
prits were advertised in the papers when necessary. One 
Rev. Mr. - is advised, for the sake of peace, to release 
his. people from his twenty-year parish engagement. 

The Committee approved the Resolution of Craven County; 
a letter was read relative to a prisoner from the District Com- 
mittee of New Bern; there is a receipt for powder from the 
District Committee of Edenton. The last item is particularly 
significant as the first indication of the existence of 
x: 422 an Edenton District Committee. 

The one record made in this sketch for Johnston 
County is for a meeting- of August 12, 1774, prior to the First 
Provincial Congress. The Resolves of the County include 
expressions of the principles underlying America's position; 
they are similar to those formulated in other counties but 
with additional special stress on the right of America to free 
legal trials and the illegality of trials beyond seas. The Com- 
mittee of Correspondence, etc., was appointed as in the other 

The record for Anson is also for the one meeting, August 
18, 1774. The Resolves were regular i. e., in accord with 
those of other counties and particularly full and explicit. 
The special recommendation is for entire suspension of com- 
merce with Britain; also for the suspension of certain suits. 

In the meeting of Granville, August 15, 1774, the Resolves 
were regular, with some distinctive emphasis. The stress on 
the theory of government, as was the case in Pitt County, is 
noticeable, and there is in Granville, a particularly complete 
outline of grievances, with comments on the right of revert- 
ing to the charter. Yet there is a conservative tendency in 
the Granville recommendations. The sympathy with Boston 
on account of British wrong is not made to include necessarily 
the full approval of Boston's course of action; suspension of 
commercial intercourse is considered radical, and suspension 
of proceedings of law, dangerous. 

Chowan County Committee meetings to be noted are four 
in number; one before the First Provincial Congress, three 

Provincial Council and Committees of Safety 35 

between the sessions of the First and Second Congress, and 
one, the very last local committee meeting- we have to record, 
taking- place October 15, 1776, during- the last session of the 
Council of Safety at Halifax. One of the three meeting's 
between the First and Second Congress, that of February 4, 
1775, is recorded as a town, not a county meeting. There is 
nothing apparent in the nature of business to mark off the 
town from the county committee at this meeting 1 ; there was 
an order for the selling- of imported goods, according to a rul- 
ing of the Continental Association, and a resolution of thanks 
to a party countermanding an order for goods, as cooperative 
with plan of Continental Congress. Two of the meeting's of 
Chowan County may not have been at Edenton, as the pro- 
ceedings are dated merely from private houses. 

The Chowan Resolves and proceedings are regular; in 
general, perhaps, less full than those of Granville. Besides 
the usual order of business, we note two points of some inter- 
est, viz., a new charge as responsible for summons before the 
Committee, and an economic departure of significance. The 
summons was for horse-racing, which had been prohibited. 
Rowan had recommended encouragement of home manufac- 
ture, and the general spirit of the country was in favor of it; 
but Chowan County seems to be the only one recorded as offer- 
ing premiums for this purpose. A part of the amount was 
realized by public subscription and a minor part supplied in 
proclamation money, the whole amounting to ,90. The 
premiums were for the manufacture of the best and greatest 
quantity of wire wool and cotton cards, woolen cloth and 
linen and steel. Occasionally in the records there is some 
letter from a Safety Committee bearing date not correspond- 
ing to any date of regular minutes. This is the case with a 
late communication, 25th July, 1776, from Edenton, in which 
is reported a contemplated mob attack from Perquimans 
County, to sieze forcibly a supply of salt in Edenton. 

Halifax County has on record a meeting before the First 
Provincial Congress, one between the First and Second Con- 
gress, and one between the First and Second sessions of the 

36 James Sprunt Historical Monograph 

Provincial Council. These must have been ample for all 
needs of the locality, considering- the fact that Halifax formed 
the centre of Provincial government during- the time of the 
Fourth Provincial Congress, April 4-May 14, 1776, and in 
July and September, 1776, when the second and sixth ses- 
sions of the Council of Safety were in operation. 

The Halifax Safety Committee meeting's are noticeable 
only for their regular conventional proceedings, inclining 
somewhat towards the conservative as regards commercial 
policy and general plan of action. 

Wilmington's Safety Committee meetings extend from 
Nov. 23, 1774, through March 7, 1776, including, so far as 
this investigation has revealed, a total of eighty-four meetings. 

There are minutes for twenty-seven meetings in the period 
preceding the Second Provincial Congress, twenty-two meet- 
ings between the sessions of the Second and Third Provincial 
Congress, besides three meetings of the rarely appearing Wil- 
mington District Committee. Again, this Committee appears 
in session five times between the Third Provincial Congress 
and the First Provincial Council and ten times between the 
First and Second Provincial Council. Persistent still, it has 
nineteen meetings between the Second and Third Provincial 
Council and one about one month before the Fourth Provin- 
cial Congress. Finally the Wilmington Committee must have 
been elevated to its supreme function when it seems lost. For 
Wilmington becomes the centre of government when the first 
session of the Council of Safety is in progress. No local com- 
mittee seems inclined to self assertion or to activity of any 
kind during the ten days of Council of Safety proceedings at 

The work of the local Safety Committee of this port town 
which seemed in touch with conditions in all the counties of 
the province, in other colonies, in England and on the seas, 
requires some special discussion, although its range of activ- 
ity has been seen, in general, in the operations of other county 
committees and in the final jurisdiction of the Council of 

Provincial Council and Committees of Safety 37 

In Wilmington there was distinct movement towards the 
combination of the county and town committee, 
ix: 1127 The minutes of February 20, 1775, contain the res- 
olution to send formal messages to each member of 
town and county committees in order to secure a joint meet- 
ing" on March 6th. At this (February 20th) meeting 1 
ix : 1128 it appeared that a majority of the joint committee 
was lacking 1 . Another movement on this occasion 
was the proposition that the joint committee of New Hanover 
and Wilming-ton send two members to attend a committee 
meeting- of Duplin County any day after March 6th 
ix :1150 and that Duplin be invited to send two represen- 
tatives to Wilming-ton for the meeting- of March 
6th. On this date the chairman of Duplin County, pursuant 
to Wilmington's proposition, was in attendance, 
ix : 1151 On March 7th, three members of the Wilmington 
Committee were selected to attend the meeting- in 
Duplin. These two meetings the one recorded for Wil- 
mington and the one indicated for Duplin belong to the 
apparently rare type of the joint committee which has a place 
entirely separate from the District Committee with its regu- 
lar membership for a certain set of counties. The records of 
the County of Duplin appear lacking; but its activity may be 
inferred through more than the one reference alluded to. It 
has a representative at the District of Wilmington 
x: 24 session, June 20th, 1775, and three members at 
x: 112 Wilmington, July 21, 1775, when there were also 
present representatives from Cumberland, Onslow, 
and Bladen. 

Wilmington's minu-tes contain a call to the Committees of 
the District to meet on the 20th of June; a request to the Dis- 
trict Committee of Salisbury to order troops to Wilmington 
another evidence of the existence of a committee in that 
District; a communication with the Chairman of Brunswick 
Committee in regard to some return of goods this a refer- 
ence to another County Committee; regrets to Wake County 
on account of inability to supply gunpowder, and thanks to 

38 James Sprunt Historical Monograph 

Bladen County for apprehension of culprits these communi- 
cations may or may not have been to actual committees with- 
in these counties; a resolution against further transmission 
of secret papers to Cumberland County "until that Commit- 
tee of Intelligence has taken the oath of secrecy" a valu- 
able reference to an organized Safety Committee which seems 
later to have gone out of operation. 

The Wilmington committee seems to have issued commer- 
cial and military orders in one continuous stream of resolves. 
There were military orders for enlistments; for meeting Col- 
onel Howe on way to Fort Johnston; for supplies for hospitals 
and provisions of guns. Cargoes of guns and negroes were 
ordered reshipped. The form of command was as follows: 

"The Committee for the town, chosen to observe the con- 
duct of all persons touching the Association of the General 
Congress, have resolved .... etc.; it is expected that 
you, etc." Confiscations and imprisonments were sufficient 
to compel compliance. But in some cases there were volun- 
tary appeals to the Committee for advice regarding disposi- 
tion of cargoes or return of slaves, etc., and the acceptance 
of committee decisions in these cases seems to have been with- 
out complaint. 

Among the general rulings of the Committee may be found 
such items as recommendation to the province to support 
South Carolina in the levying of soldiers; to intercept Gov- 
ernor Martin in his progress to the back country; to collect 
troops, etc. Finally, communication with Martin was cut 
off; there was a special resolve prohibiting attendance of his 
majesty's Council on the sloop of war; provisions and medi- 
cines might be carried to the vessel only by special permit. 

A resolve of indignation regarding the exception of North 
Carolina in the trade laws of England was passed by the Wil- 
mington Committee; a resolution of thanks was decreed at 
the proper time to the soldiers who had demolished Fort 
Johnston and its traitor commander; there was, in general, 
decided interest, from the first, in all the' Resolves of the Pro- 
vincial Congress and in the urging of meetings of the Con- 

Provincial Council and Committees of Safety 39 

gress. Such selections from the minutes may illustrate the 
Committee spirit. 

The disciplinary acts of the Wilming-ton Committee were 
strict and numerous. They extended to the control of horse 
races, the billiard table and the dances or balls even in pri- 
vate homes. There were dealing's with enemies to country as 
usual; imprisonments; requirements to recant or leave the 
country within three days; denunciation of the "false scan- 
dalous and seditious" to quote description by the Commit- 
tee and orders in refractory cases for closer and closer con- 
finement. Yet, as in other counties, some care was used in 
decisions; there were sotne acquittals, and persons under 
arrest were occasionally allowed to depart to other colonies 
(an instance noted, to Massachusetts and Rhode Island) after 
investigation of claims had been satisfied. 

The absolute independence of the Wilming-tou Committee, 
with its determination to enforce its power to the utmost, and 
.its willingness at the same time to keep strictly within its own 
bounds in jurisdiction, may be seen with remarkable clearness 
in two seperate acts of the Committee, of decided significance 
when thus considered together : 

In one case, an order was given for release of a certain 

prisoner and for cessation of all proceedings against 
x: 262 him, on the ground that suit had been brought (in 

the County court) without the proper required 
x: 332 sanction and cooperation of the Committee. In 

the other case referred to, the Committee nullified 
its own election of some members of its body, chosen to fill 
vacancies, and referred the matter of election for said vacan- 
cies to the freeholders of the County, with an acknowledge- 
ment of a mistake in the exercise of illegal power. It is of 

some interest also to note the names of these mem- 
x: 334 bers, elected and set aside by the Committee, on 

the list of those next chosen by freeholders for 
Committee service. 

The District Committee of Wilmington has nothing on its 
records to mark it as of superior nature to the committees of 

40 James Sprunt Historical Monograph 

counties and towns. We find entries like the following-: Let- 
ter from Cross Creek read and approved; Governor's procla- 
mation read and committee of three appointed to reply to 
same; defeat of a motion for certain leave for importation of 
house servants; decision to apply to Cumberland County for 
gunpowder for public use; appointment of patrols for control 
of negroes; resolve that "Association" of 'New Hanover stand 
as the Association for the District the last item suggesting 
early leadership of the County rather than dictation of the 

Craven County shows activity in three Committee meet- 
ing's at New Bern just before the Second Provincial Congress, 
six meetings between the Second and the Third Congress, and 
three between the Third Congress and the first Provincial 
Council. The first meeting of the Committee seems to have 
been on January 27, 1775; the last, August 14, 1775. This 
Committee was not lacking in firmness and extent of proceed- 
ings but these are in general similar to those of other coun- 
ties discussed. The investigations were relative to matters 
of moment as illustrated through the intercepted letter of 
General Gage to Governor Martin in regard to hostile intro- 
duction of arms, etc., into the province, and another public 
letter of Governor Martin's in which he admits having 
thought of stirring up an insurrection of slaves. The min- 
utes include an order against communication; comment on the 
destruction of Fort Johnson; censure of Rev. Mr. - -- for 
refusing to officiate at a service on the day set apart by the 
Continental Congress the position of the minister being due 
to his fear of losing a mission in foreign parts. 

The meetings of the New Bern District Committee, as 
recorded, are nine in number; the first on January 16, 1776; 
the last February 24, 1776, thus indicating activity, for the 
District, between the Second and Third Provincial Councils. 

The resolutions of this District Committee of New Bern 
include general and special rulings in military and commer- 
cial matters, with minute directions for sale of salt imported 
without sanction of Committee, the question of use of pro- 

Provincial Council and Committees of Safety 41 

ceeds from said salt to be referred to the Provincial Congress. 
Orders were issued for suppression of insurrection in certain 
counties, the raising- of troops for various localities, with pro- 
vision of military force for Craven County during- the absence 
of Caswell. Some action was entered into regarding default- 
ers, security debts, etc. A proceeding- of no great import in 
itself will illustrate the g-eneral plan of the relation of town, 
county and district committees, and also mark another one of 
the references to otherwise unrecorded Districts. The situa- 
tion referred to is as follows : 

A request appears from the District Committee of Eden- 
ton to the town of New Bern for seizure of a certain ship 
g-oing to sea contrary to the ruling- of the Continental Con- 
gress. The Town of New Bern committee reported to the 
District Committee of New Bern the seizure of said vessel. 
The District Committee of New Bern recommended to the 
Town Committee the dismantling- and guarding of the ship 
till orders could be obtained from Congress or Council of 
Safety. From this it would appear : (1) That the natural 
course of action was direct communication with the town 
whose services were needed rather than to the district. (2) 
That the formal appeal for instruction, from county to town, 
was of no practical value. The lack of District activity was 
evidently due to easily explained conditions. 

Northampton County probably was guided to a greater 
extent by its Safety Committee than the one record which 
can be given here would demonstrate. The minutes of the 
meeting are for August 5, 1775, two weeks before the Third 
Provincial Congress. The record is for a judgment against 
a person on account of some handling of gunpowder in con- 
veying it from Virginia to Hillsboro. 

The Tryon County Committee meetings recorded extend 
from August 14, 1775, to February 6, 1776. The meetings 
seem distributed thus: one meeting just before the Third 
Provincial Congress, one between this Congress and the First 
Provincial Council, one just before the Second Provincial 
Council, and three before the Third Provincial Council. 

42 James Sprunt Historical Monograph 

The Resolves of the Tryon Committee appear full and 
extend over the usual range of procedure in other counties. 
Among- the rulings may be noted : a permit for receiving 
ammunition from Charles Town; an order to a jailor in another 
county; some regulations regarding trial of suits in Inferior 
Courts and a special decision against extending any action to 
the point of inhumanity. 

The five Surry County Committee meetings recorded were 
during the two months preceding the First Provincial Coun- 
cil, i. e., in August and September, 1775. The impression 
given by the minutes of the meetings is that the County dis- 
patched the business of the Safety Committees with very lit- 
tle to vary the monotony of the regular. Certain papers 
termed "Protests," were condemned; there were rulings for the 
protection of creditors and the securing of ammunition, and 
the usual election and appointments. 

There is a record of a meeting in Orange County on Aug- 
ust 7, 1776, near the close of the fourth session of the Coun- 
cil of Safety. A complaint was here presented from someone 
who claimed to have been forced into military service under 
false pretences. In response, a resolution was passed com- 
manding the appearance of the offending officer before the 
Committee or the Council of Safety. 

This is the last Committee movement found in the minutes 
so far as this investigation has extended; but the references, 
as before stated, and also the correspondence of the .period 
testify to other proceedings and reveal committees in other 
counties, this suggesting a wider range of action than that 
outlined here. A lettter from Guilford County, dated August 
23, 1776, is an appeal from a member of the Guilford County 
Safety Committee to the State Council of Safety for advice 
regarding the appointment of a company of Light Horse to 
apprehend the disaffected at a time when disapproval of such 
measures is evident. There is also on record a letter from 
the Council of Safety, then in Wake County, to the Guilford 
Committee, relative to certain prisoners, and approving of 
the company of Light Horse, provided it is under direct man- 
agement of the Committee and used only when necessary. 

Provincial Council and Committees of Safety 48 

In like manner the existence of a Committee of Pasquo- 
tank is seen through a letter to this Committee, giving 
instructions for trial by the Committee of some one suspected 
of having written a certain seditious paper. 

So there is no doubt of activity in the State, besides that 
revealed through the minutes of meetings. Reference has 
been made to the evidence showing organization in the Dis- 
tricts of Salisbury, Halifax and Eden ton and the counties of 
Onslow, Duplin, Brunswick, Cumberland, Perquimans, Guil- 
ford, and Pasquotank. Allusions to Wake and Bladen have 
also shown probability of organizations in these counties. In 
Mecklenburg, famed for its own early Declaration of Inde- 
pendence, the proceedings of meetings of citizens, signed P. 
S. (Public Safety), were in effect Safety Committee meetings; 
most of them occurred after the signing of the Declaration. 

There were a number of Committee meetings, which 
occurred, as has been indicated, after the receipt at Halifax 
of the news of the Declaration of Independence in Philadel- 
phia. The Resolutions at Halifax include instructions to the 
committees of the Safety Committees of the respective coun- 
ties and towns to make public the Declaration. From this 
point in time, the proceedings of the Safety Committees per- 
tain to local needs rather than to resolutions against Britain. 
The local committees were decreasing in importance with the 
increase in the functions of <the Council of Safety. But, as 
has been said, the instructions and recommendations from the 
Council of Safety to the local committees were to the last a 
valuable aid to the Council government. 

We find directions from the Council to the committees of 
the several counties and towns to obtain for trans- 
mission through the Council to the Continental 
x Congress, accurate lists of inhabitants; to obtain 
from suspected persons and neutrals inventory of 
estates, and to send such persons before the Council; to the 
Committees of Duplin to regulate price and sale of salt; to 
the committees in general to secure inventory from persons 
showing disposition to undervalue Bills of Credit; to send 

44 James Sprunt Historical Monograph 


before the Council persons violating- Council resolves, etc., 
etc. Persons were appointed to read the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence and the Resolutions of the Continental Congress in 
regard to treason, in the County of Cumberland. The appoint- 
ment was accompanied by the comment, "As there is no com- 
mittee in Cumberland," which would indicate the occasional 
disappearance in a County of the organized Safety Committee. 
The correspondence of the period covers the military field 
of operations; the relations of the Provincial and 
government to the delegates in Congress; the con- 
x, xi nection of this g-overnment with the Systems in 
other States, and the inter-relations of the differ- 
ent features of g-overnment within the State. Through these 
letters we gain increased evidence of the efficiency of the 
Council and committees in the regulation of the military, 
civic and economic interests of the country. The plans of 
North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia for 
cooperation, and the preparation for campaigns against 
Indians are prominent subjects of the correspondence. Among 
the communications of military import are those to and from 
General Moore, General Ashe, Colonel Folsome, General 
Rutherford, General Lee, Colonel Armstrong, Gen- 
xi eral Howe and Colonel Butler. The inter-State 
communication is with men like Governor Rut- 
ledge, of South Carolina, (Gov.) Patrick Henry of Virginia, 
Henry Laurens, President of South Carolina Council of Safe- 
ty, and President Page and Edmond Pendleton, of the Coun- 
cil of Safety of Virginia. 

Within the State there is important correspondence with 
Samuel Johnston and Cornelius Harnett. North 
x: 255 Carolina was also in close touch with her Conti- 
nental delegates in Congress, and there was an 
occasional communication with Hancock, President of the 
Continental Congress. 

Briefly stated, the government of the Provincial Council 
and the Committees of Safety in North Carolina, extending 
from September, 1775, to November 12, 1776, and embracing 
a system of two distinct stages, had its foundation in the 

Provincial Council and Committees of Safety 45 

government by the Provincial Congress. This, in turn, was 
the result of preliminary organization of County Committees 
which seemed impelled to action by a call which came from 
patriots of Wilmington, and by a realization of the pressure 
of conditions combined with familiarity with committee gov- 
ernment which had at least been utilized since the Assembly 
of 1773. There was steady, definite increase in the power of 
this government from the time of its complete embodiment in 
a well-defined system until it disappeared at the height of 
success through the culmination of its acts in the summoning 
of the State Constitutional Convention. 

The benefit which the province received from the Provin- 
cial Council and the Committees of Safety seems to have been 
the supply of legislative, judicial and executive functions, at 
a time when the regular legislature had ceased to be possible, 
the courts had practically disappeared, and the Governor and 
his Council had lost all semblance of command. A better 
administrative system than that of the Council and commit- 
tees was no doubt possible, and it was ushered in by the Con- 
stitutional Convention. This was not only created by the 
Council of Safety; its work was made possible by the preced- 
ing form of government which paved the way for its success. 
The province may have been subjected to arbitrary, oligarch- 
ical power bordering on tyranny, but underlying this there 
was at least disinterested purpose, and through this democ- 
racy seemed to emerge. The conception of la and order in 
democratic rule perhaps came to the state through the trans- 
ition government. This may have been the basis for the 
functions of the later complex institutions of a government 
advanced and highly developed. 

NOTE : The tabulated list of the meetings of Congress, Councils and Com- 
mittees, at the close of this sketch, is not intended as exhaustive, final, or 
absolutely accurate so far as numbers and order of local sessions are con- 
cerned, nor even as to the number of counties included. It may he of value 
for illustration of the stages and development of independent colonial gov- 
ernment; and some such form might serve as a basis for determining growth 
of committee activity and scope of committee relations through rough chron- 
ological grouping. 

Appendix A 



ROWAN COUNTY (Salisbury) 

Aug. 8, 1774 Nov. 8, 1775 

Sept. 23, 1774 . Nov. 9, 1775 

Nov. 3, 1774 Nov. 10, 1775 

June 1, 1775 Nov. 11, 1775 

June 15, 1775 Feb. 6, 1776 

Aug. 1, 1775 Feb. 7, 1776 

Sept. 20, 1775 Feb. 8, 1776 

Sept. 21, 1775 May 7, 1776 

Sept. 25, 1775 May 8, 1776 

Oct. 17, 1775 Aug. 7, 1776 

Oct. 18, 1775 Aug. 22, 1776 
Nov. 7, 1775 

PITT COUNTY (Martinboro) 

Aug. 15, 1774 July 29, 1775 

Oct. 27, 1774 Aug. 23, 1775 

Nov. 3, 1774 Sept. 9, 1775 

Nov. 17, 1774 Sept. 23, 1775 

Dec. 17, 1774 Oct. 2, 1775 

Feb. 11, 1775 Oct. 24, 1775 

March 10, 1775 Oct. 25, 1775 

March 24, 1775 Nov. 11, 1775 

May 1, 1775 Dec. 16, 1775 

May 13, 1775 Jan. 23, 1776 

May 20, 1775 Jan. 24, 1776 

May 27, 1775 Feb. 13, 1776 

June 10, 1775 March 23, 1776 

July 1, 1775 April 23, 1776 

July 8, 1775 June 29, 1776 

July 17, 1775 June 23, 1776 

Appendix 47 

Aug-. 18, 1776 

Aug-. 12, 1774 

Aug. 15, 1774 


Aug. 22, 1774 (Edenton) 
Jan. 28, 1775 (House Mr. John Cofield) 
March 4, 1775 (House Capt. James Suraner) 
Oct. 15, 1776 (Edentoh) 

Feb. 4, 1775 


Aug-. 22, 1774 (Town) 
Dec. 21, 1774 (County) 
Nov. 28, 1775 


Nov. 23, 1774 Jan. 21, 1775 

Dec. 10, 1774 Jan. 27, 1775 

Dec. 14, 1774 Jan. 28, 1775 

Dec. 17, 1774 Jan. 30, 1775 

Dec. 19, 1774 Feb. 2, 1775 

Dec. 30, 1774 Feb. 3, 1775 

Dec. 31, 1774 Feb. 13, 1775 

Jan. 3, 1775 Feb. 20, 1775 

Jan. 5, 1775 Feb. 21, 1775 

Jan. 6, 1775 March 1, 1775 

Jan. 20, 1775 March 4, I7f5 



March 6, 1775 
March 7, 1775 
March 13, 1775 
March 20, 1775 
March 24, 1775 
April 4, 1775 
April 20, 1775 
May 20, 1775 
June 7, 1775 
June 17, 1775 
June, 1775* 
July 3, 1775 
July 5, 1775 
July 7, 1775 
July 10, 1775 
July 12, 1775 
July 15, 1775 
July 20, 1775 
July 21, 1775 
July 27, 1775 
July 31, 1775 
August 8, 1775 
August 9, 1775 
August 9, 1775 
August 11, 1775 
August 17, 1775 
August 18, 1775 
August 19, 1775 
August 19, 1775 
August 21, 1775 
Oct. 5, 1775 
Oct. 11, 1775 
Oct. 16, 1775 

Oct. 17, 1775 
Oct. 25, 1775 
Oct. 30, 1775 
Nov. 3, 1775 
Nov. 13, 1775 
Nov. 15, 1775 
Nov. 16, 1775 
Nov. 18, 1775 
Nov. 20, 1775 
Nov. 24, 1775 
Dec. 7, 1775 
Dec. 19, 1775 
Dec. 20, 1775 
Dec. 22, 1775 
Jan. 5, 1776 
Jan. 6, 1776 
Jan. 19, 1776 
Jan. 12, 1776 
Jan. 15, 1776 
Jan. 16, 1776 
Jan. 17, 1776 
Jan. 18, 1776 
Jan. 20, .1776 
Jan. 20, 1776 
Jan. 22, 1776 
Jan. 27, 1776 
Jan. 28, 1776 
Jan. 30, 1776 
Feb. 2, 1776 
Feb. 2, 1776 
Feb. 5, 1776 
Feb. 9, 1776 
March 7, 1776 

*Exact date unknown. 



June 20, 1775 
June 21, 1775 


Jan. 27, 1775 August 2, 1775 

March 4, 1775 August 5, 1776 

July 17, 1775 August 10, 1776 

July 21, 1775 August 14, 1776 


Jan. 16, 1776 Feb. 21, 1776 

Jan. 17, 1776 Feb. 22, 1776 

Jan. 18, 1776 Feb. 23, 1776 

Feb. 10, 1776 Feb. 24, 1776 

Feb. 15, 1776 


Aug. 5, 1775 


Jan. (4th Tues.), 1776 
Jan., 1776* 
Feb. 6, 1776 

August 14, 1775 
Sept. 14, 1775 
Oct. 25, 1775' 

Aug. 25, 1775 
Aug. 26, 1775 


Sept. 20, 1775 
Sept. 21, 1775 
Aug. 27, 1776 

*Kxart date unknown. 


Whitaker, Bessie Lewis '^ 

.vincial council and.J2S8 
of safety in North 


_1" m * de '" Canada